Android Auto on phone screens is dead, long live Assistant Driving Mode

Aside from smartphones and smartwatches, Android’s other official incarnations have been less consistent, including on tablets. Android Auto and Android TV have undergone shifts that completely change the game, for better or for worse. Android Auto’s history has been rather tumultuous, especially with the launch of a different but related Android Automotive. Now things are taking another turn with the removal of Android Auto for phone screens, forcing users to switch to Google Assistant’s Driving Mode instead.

Android Auto was a bit late to the game compared to Apple’s CarPlay, and, unsurprisingly, not many car manufacturers were keen on immediately supporting it. As a stopgap measure for those with cars that don’t support Android Auto, Google created an app that ran the user interface on a phone that would then be safely perched on a car’s dashboard. This Android Auto For Phone Screens app has supposedly served its purpose, and Google wanted to retire it immediately.

That was scheduled to happen in 2019, but a couple of bugs delayed its final execution. Now it seems that Google is finally ready to pull the plug with the release of Android 12. It has started notifying some users of that fact and is directing their attention to its replacement, Google Assistant’s Driving Mode.

In some ways, that Driving Mode experience is similar to what the Android Auto for Phone Screens app offered, allowing distraction-free use of some phone apps while navigating a route. In other ways, however, Google Assistant almost gets in the way, like requiring that you start a route first before you can even get to that Driving Mode. It was possible to start Android Auto for phone screens manually through an app shortcut.

Google’s statement clarifies that nothing really changes for those with cars that directly support Android Auto. Vehicles with Android Automotive are naturally unaffected as well. Those that have neither, however, will be experiencing a disruptive change, though hopefully, Google will address complaints before Android 12 hits the market.